Sailors Home (former)
Statement of SignificanceThe former Sydney Sailors' Home and site are of State heritage significance for their historic, social and scientific cultural values. The site and building are also of State heritage significance for their contribution to The Rocks area which is of State Heritage significance inits own right.The building is of State significance as a rare example of a building specifically built to accommodate transiting seaman of all nationalities and continued to function in this role for over 100 years. The former Sailors' Home is significant as it provides a record of changingattitudes to social welfare in the 19th and 20th centuries. The building fabric significantly retains evidence of its early use and configuration and simple accommodation which reflects the meagre expectations of the working class, during the 19th century and acceptance of these standards well into the 20th century.The fabric and history of the Sailors Home demonstrates changing social values of the 20th century, with the construction and subsequent removal of segregated facilities and with the eventual lapse if interest in the home in the 1970s.The history and significance of the building is linked with its location. The changes of the site and building also reflect growth and development of the Quay, and its shift from the focus of port activities. The building has a long association with Cadman's Cottage and the former Mariners' Church, and along with other buildings in this section of George Street remains as a reminder of the workings of the Quay as a port. The original wing of the building significantly retains a visual relationship with the waterfront and due to its four storey facade and high parapet, has landmark qualities from this aspect.The building is associated with prominent architects William E Kemp (1860s wing) and Spain and Cosh (1920s wing) and with organisations such as the Marionette Theatre of Australia and has played an important role in the interpretation and cultural tourism of Sydney and The Rocks for the last decade as the base for the Sydney Visitors Centre.
Sailors Thai Restaurant, Billich Gallery
Sailors' Home; Marionette Theatre, Lodging housing, Sydney Visitor Centre.
Construction Years: 1864 - 1926
Physical Description: The building known as The Sailor's Home currently stands as two attached structures located on the eastern side of George Street. A four storey L-shaped block fronts George Street returning along the northern side of the site to partially enclose a rectangular block of similar height. The L-shaped block is finished in Classical Revival style whilst the rectangular block features Romanesque style window openings and associated stringer courses. A continuous parapet in Classical Revival style links the blocks. (Bligh Robinson 1990: Chapter 2)Style: 1864- Victorian Italianate 1926- Inter-War Free Classical; Storeys: 4; Roof Cladding: 1863 - Slate, 1926 - Membrane; Floor Frame: Timber
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: In 1860, the Colonial Government decided to grant the Committee of the Sydney Sailors' Home a site at Circular Quay. The original site was once a series of sandstone ledges and a sandy beach. It extended both to the north and to the south of the present boundaries, to include Cadman's Cottage, and a portion of the land on which the former City Coroner's Court now stands. The Water Police used the site from 1846 -53, and renovated Cadman's Cottage for use as a court with jail cells. The Dead House (morgue) was constructed at the northern end of the site. The location was considered suitable for the Home as it was close to the Quay and to the recently established Mariners Church. The Home had its origins in a benevolent movement dedicated to the elevation of the Sailors' condition and character, and by the 1860s such institutions were considered essential to any sizeable British port. It provided clean, comfortable and inexpensive board and lodging for sailors and other persons of all nationalities employed in sea-going ships and vessels. Architects Messrs. Weaver and Kemp of 181 Pitt Street Sydney were appointed and by April 1860, Kemp had produced an extensive design, similar in form, scale and proportion to that of the Brunswick Maritime Establishment in London's Docklands. The northern wing was completed in 1864 and the building made provision for the future construction of Weaver & Kemp's extensive scheme. The building stood four storeys high. The sandstone basement contained kitchen and dining facilities. The storeys above were brickwork with sandstone detailing to the window sills, corbels, arched heads and string courses.A bequest in 1916 enabled the Karss Wing to be added to the Home, and in 1925 Sydney City Council approved plans for a major extension designed by Spain & Cosh. An L-shaped structure, the new wing, completed in 1926, abutted the 1864 building and presented a Federation Free Classical façade to George Street.The history of the Sailors' Home is inextricably linked with the adjacent Cadmans Cottage. The first Superintendent restored the Cottage as a residence in 1865 and it was used as such until 1926, when the new extension to the Home provided a residence for the Superintendent and his family. The cottage was used as an overflow for sailors accommodation until the late 1950s, when it was vacated and fell into disrepair. In 1970, the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority resumed the site. Cadmans Cottage was gazetted under the National Parks and Wildlife Act as an Historic Site. About this time, sailors' wages increased dramatically, and with this their expectations of standard of accommodation, so attendance at the home dropped. In 1980-81, plans were prepared by Hall, Bowe and Webber Pty Ltd Architects to adapt the building for use by the Marionette Theatre of Australia, approved by Council in 1983. This work involved substantial structural changes and the removal of significant fabric. This use ceased in the later 1980s.In 1993 conservation works were completed by the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority reversing many of the 1983 changes and the Heritage and Information Centre opened in the building in the following year. Later this was replaced with the Sydney Visitor Centre.In 1995, level 1 and part of level two were adapted to restaurant use and leased to a private operator. In 2005 the Sydney Visitor centre moved out of the building. The building now houses a Charles Billich's commerical art gallery. Charles Billich (born 1934, in Lovran, Istria, Croatia) was named Artist of the 1996 Summer Olympics. He is the recipient of the 2000 Sport Artist of the Year Award presented annually by the American Sport Art Museum and Archives. He was named Designated Artist 2001 Centenary Nobel Peace Prize. Inspired by his work entitled The Beijing Cityscape, the official image for the successful Beijing bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games, Charles Billich conceived a series of images based on the Bing Ma Yong Terracotta warriors. The Bing Ma Yong images are represented on a collection of 16 postage stamps currently in circulation in China.
Historical significance: The site is significant as it represents the development of Circular Quay and to an extent The Rocks area. It is partly the product of extensive and successive land reclamation that has seen the western shoreline move eastward approximately 100 metres (although not all of the building is constructed on reclaimed land).The former Sydney Sailors' Home is historically significant as a good and intact example of an institutional building type of the Victorian period. It is of historical significance as the first purpose built home for seamen in NSW and provides a record of the changing attitudes to social welfare in the 19th and 20th centuries. The building significantly continued its original functions for over 100 years and retains evidence of the original operation of the building and its simple, if minimal, land base for transiting sailors of all nationalities and subsequent phases of use. As with other benevolent institutions of the time, it was founded by public subscription, reflecting a new interest in the working class.The construction of the 1860s wing also highlights an awareness of the growing importance of Sydney as a major port and city and emphasises the continuing link with the '"mother country" by following a British model.The location of the building is significant with association and historical links with the development of Cadman's Cottage, Water Police, the former Mariner's Church, Circular Quay and the general fabric and development of The Rocks area in general. With the formerMariner's Church, the building remains as a reminder of the thriving port activities in Sydney in the late 19th century. Together with buildings such as Campbell's Store and the ASN Building, the building is part of a significant group of buildings, located in this section ofGeorge Street and which played an important role in the early maritime role of west Circular Quay and reflects the evolution of maritime buildings in The Rocks area.The physical fabric of the building retains evidence of the meagre expectations of the working class through the 19th and 20th centuries, and records the changing social values of the 20th century with the construction and subsequent removal of racially segregated facilities and with the eventual lapse in the interest in the Home, following the reassessment of seaman's wages and work conditions of the 1970s.
Historical association: The building is associated with the Sydney Sailors Home, a benevolent society that was formed by prominent businessmen and land owners. The 1860s wing of the building is associated with prominent architect William E Kemp, who worked in the Colonial Architects office under Edmund Blacket, Alexander Dawson and William Weaver and after a time in private practice later became architect for the Department of Public Instruction. Although altered, the wing remains as an example of his early work undertaken whilst in private practice. The 1920s wing is associated with architectural firm Spain and Cosh, who were responsible for a number of prominent Sydney buildings which are representative of the evolution of architecture in Sydney over a span of some sixty years. The association and use of prominent architects indicates the importance of the Sailors' Home and recognition of its role in Sydney.
Aesthetic significance: The building significantly retains fabric from its initial construction, major additions in the 1920s and development stages since. The building retains a sense of its original configuration and Victorian Romanesque Revival features of the original wing of the building and the Inter-war Colonial Revival style of the 1920s addition. The original wing of the building is significant as it retains a sense of its original form and style which followed a British model, and illustrates an early dependence on British architectural trends. The interior of the original wing in particular features galleries about a central void and upper storey interprets the original "berths" or cabins which appear to have been modelled on the London Sailors' Home and Red Ensign Club. The original Sailors' Home was one of the earliest Sydney examples of the Romanesque Revival style, a style which was to gain popularity in Sydney in the 1880s and continue into the 1900s as the prevalent warehouse style. The building occupies a prominent position on George Street North, highlighted by the open character of the Cadman's Cottage site and low nature of the Cottage, and the face brick façade of the adjacent former Coroner's Court building. The scale, form, materials and detailing makes a positive contribution to the area and is in contrast to the commercial development located in the western side of George Street. The building forms part of an eclectic and rich grouping located in this section of the eastern side of George Street. The ship's wheel on the parapet is a good example of function related decorative motifs added to buildings in the early decades of the 20th century. The 1920s addition is a good example of Inter-war Colonial Revival style building. The building site and building provide accessible interpretation opportunities for the general public and tourists in the heart of The Rocks. Its four storey façade as presents to the western shore of the Quay proudly bears "Sailors' Home", and due to its strong form and height has landmark qualities from the Quay. The interior of the building retains the original spaces and in the original wing the galleries. The original sailors' cubicles have also been interpreted in the interior of the building.
Social significance: The building has special association with the former Sydney Sailors' Home, now the Australian Mariners' Welfare Society, being their base from the 1860s to the 1970s. During this period the building was occupied by a number of individuals and longer term residents. The building continued to accommodate sailors for over 100 years and is associated with the naval community and world wide network of Sailors' Homes and seamen's missions which were established to provide clean and comfortable accommodation for seamen of all nationalities. The building is also associated with the Marionette Theatre who occupied the building during the 1980s and has been the focus for cultural tourism and tourist groups associated with The Rocks Heritage Information Centre and Sydney Visitors Centre who occupied the building from the mid 1990s to December 2005. The building continues to be recognised for its association with well known Sailors Thai Restaurant.
Research significance: The area between Cadman's Cottage and the building is of high archaeological significance as it retains evidence of the original shoreline and wharf that dates back to the use of the place by the Government Coxswain, Water Police and other structures predating 1840. The north western section of the building is constructed over a sandstone ledge that indicates the location of the original waterline of the western side of Sydney Cove. Some evidence of former structures remains, however, construction of the two wings of the building would have disturbed most surface deposits relating to the former uses of the site (Godden Mackay 1991 & 1992).The building retains evidence of its various phases of construction and development which provide information relating to both the welfare and living standards of the late Victorian and subsequent periods and construction techniques and materials. The buildings demonstrate changes in technology, materials and construction techniques spanning from the 1860s, with building elements remaining from the two distinct construction periods (1860s and 1920s) and refurbishment and conservation works since (1980s and 1990s).
Rare assessment: The building is of State significance as a rare example of a building specifically built to accommodate visiting seamen. It was the earliest building built in Sydney specifically for this purpose and one of two early "Homes" constructed in NSW - the other example is located in Newcastle. Other examples, such as Adelaide and Melbourne have now been demolished.
Representative assessment: The building is of State significance as the first, purpose built Home for the accommodation of seamen of all nationalities in Sydney. It is representative of an institutional building type and displays some characteristics as other Victorian Sailor's Homes, such as the building form and fenestration pattern of the Port Adelaide Home (now demolished) and interior of the London Sailor's Home, but is the only one of its type in Sydney and in the NSW context.
Intact assessment: Archaeology mostly disturbed.
Physical condition: Good physical condition.Archaeology Assessment Condition: Mostly disturbed. Assessment Basis: Floors terraced into hill slope from Circular Quay West. Sandstone bedrock visible on side adjacent to Cadman's Cottage. Investigation: Watching Brief
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Governing||Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation.|
|Educating||Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0537||Sydney Sailors Home (former)||21/10/1980||2464|
|National Trust of Australia Register||8877||05/09/1989|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01576||Sailors Home (former)||10/05/2002||2868||85|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Within a National Trust conservation area||10499|